Coaching Longevity is a Sign of a Winner

Bisciotti Harbaugh on field

It must have been shocking (or alternately, annoying) for loyal Ravens fans to turn on morning sports talk radio recently and hear some listeners, self-proclaimed fans, calling for the head of the head coach after a couple losses despite the fact that said coach took the Ravens to five consecutive playoff appearances with a sixth hanging in the balance.

Of course all that happened before the Ravens won two in a row at home with a third (likely) win on the way, and now sit tenuously in control of their own playoff destiny despite a very rough start in which they looked anything but a playoff contender.

Yet this doesn’t appease some folks who stand ready to jump ship on the coach the moment the seas get a little rough. Suddenly the past doesn’t matter much. Suddenly the curse of ‘what have you done for me lately’ permeates the room (and airwaves) rather than common sense.

It is okay to criticize the coach – after all he’s made some truly bush-league, bone-headed mistakes this year at times – but to call for his ouster? Fortunately, Steve Bisciotti (an admitted talk radio listener, though not always sports) isn’t paying the know-it-alls any mind.

By strongly standing by John Harbaugh, even through last season’s difficult losing streak, puts the team in the same company as some of the recent winningest franchises in the NFL, all of which hold multiple Super Bowl titles to their names. Additionally, all of those teams share another commonality: they’ve continued winning while standing by their coach, almost to a fault even through questionable seasons.

 

THE NEW YORK GIANTS (2 Super Bowl wins, 2 appearances since 2000)

The Giants have won two Super Bowls since Tom Coughlin was hired, both over the New England Patriots, and in Super Bowl XLII, beating a Pats team that had not lost a game all season.

The Giants have won with Eli Manning at quarterback, who has been suspect at times, brilliant at other times but altogether quite enigmatic. But Coughlin has stayed solidly behind him even when Manning has not played well.

In 2011 owner John Mara refused to fire his coach when the team was mightily struggling and looking like it would miss the playoffs a third straight year, despite the insistence of many experts around him saying it was time to do so. Mara shot that down, saying that like his father Wellington Mara used to say, a few disappointments “doesn’t mean you blow the whole thing up,” as ESPN’s Ian O’Connor noted in a column on the owner.

Mara, according to O’Connor, surveyed the locker room and could tell the players “wanted him back.” As it turns out, Mara would be rewarded when Coughlin then led the Giants past Dallas in a do-or-die game, got into the playoffs (barely) and then won Super Bowl XLVI.

Mara could see that his coach hadn’t lost the locker room and that as long as his players wanted to play for him, Coughlin was worth keeping. That long-term investment strategy has paid dividends for the Giants and set them apart.

 

THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS (2 Super Bowl wins, 3 appearances since 2000)

The Steelers are perhaps the (other) longtime classiest organization in the NFL when it comes to ownership and loyalty to its coaches. The Steelers, since 1969, have had just three head coaches in Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin.

Noll retired after coaching from 1969 to 1991 and Cowher retired in 2006 after coaching since 1992. Tomlin continues to coach the team at present.

Under Noll the Steelers reached and won four Super Bowls, while under Cowher the team went 1-1 and 1-1 as well under Tomlin in Super Bowls.

From 1998 – 2000, the Steelers had three consecutive years without even a playoff appearance. But the Rooney family wouldn’t even contemplate letting go of Cowher, and he then took them to an AFC Championship game appearance the next year and the Super Bowl XL title in 2005.

The Steelers are going through somewhat of a rough patch under Tomlin for the first time, the last two years, but you can bet the Rooney family won’t be pushing the panic button anytime soon.

 

THE OTHERS

The Washington Redskins won three Super Bowls under Joe Gibbs from 1982-1993 and then went through a succession of mostly unsuccessful coaches after that from 1993-2004 when Joe Gibbs returned for a second stint as head coach when he took the team to the playoffs two years out of four.

Since Gibbs no coach has even gotten the Redskins to an NFC Championship game or a Super Bowl.

The Dallas Cowboys won three Super Bowls of their own with Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer between 1992 and 1995. Since then they have barely won anything in the playoffs but have been better known for blowing huge leads or close games at the last instant since Johnson and Switzer left. Johnson left after clashes with Jerry Jones, who is also the Cowboys general manager, and a fellow “football person” which can be a tough elixir against a strong personality like Johnson.

The Oakland/LA Raiders have shuffled in and out coaches like a deck of cards since Tom Flores finished 5-10 in 1987 and moved to the front office. Under Jon Gruden in the early 2000s the team showed life and promise and made the AFC Championship game in 2000, but then jettisoned their coach in a trade. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers promptly hired him and beat the Raiders (with Gruden’s players on both teams) in the Super Bowl. They have stunk since. The only coach since to get them to a non-losing record was Tom Cable- whom the Raiders promptly fired after that season.

So, Ravens fans can take comfort that they’ve got a coach for the long haul, especially when considering the alternatives.

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About Tom Moore

Tom Moore
TOM MOORE is from Baltimore and writes on sports for Press Box, and he previously served as a columnist for The Baltimore Examiner on many topics related to Baltimore and Maryland. Described by many as a ‘Renaissance man,’ Mr. Moore has hosted the weekly radio program The Tom Moore Show...more

14 Raves on “Coaching Longevity is a Sign of a Winner

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      Because I’m critical of the bone-headed mistakes (mentioned by Tom) it equates to me wanting him fired? Doesn’t work that way. Try again…

        • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

          It has shelf life and we’ve had a ton on new content over the past couple of days, so we thought we’d wait until tomorrow. Besides we did post this on Facebook. Are you blocked there for some reason?

          Sorry to disappoint. If it helps to ease the pain, I’ll see if I can get you a discount on a Harbs Huggie from Poor Boys (based upon availability).

  1. kevin on said:

    The Giants have been to 3 super bowls since 2000, we faced them in super bowl 2000 and laid a smackdown. How could you forget that.

  2. Jim on said:

    Hey Tom. IMHO the negativity to which you refer is not the opinion of the typical fan, but the ones that call “1057 the Fan”. Do you think Norris and Davis have pictures of somebody? How can they stay on the air as bad as they are? How come we in Baltimore have to be subject to sub-par sports journalism?

  3. KO on said:

    Belichick, Tomlin, Coughlin, McCarthy, Payton & Harbaugh are the only current coaches that have won a Super Bowl. 6 out of 32. Exactly who would you replace Harbs with if he got canned. It is not like SB winning coaches with nearly.700 winning percentages (.800+ at home) are out there waiting on a street corner to get hired. These fans that call in to talk shows made up their minds a few seasons ago that they did not like Harbs. Remember how often they called in and said the Ravens would NEVER win the Super Bowl with that Special Team’s coach? When they have made up their mind that they don’t like someone every massive accomplishment is disregarded (e.g. – highest winning percentage over last 5 seasons/deep playoff runs/SB win), and every mistake they make is deeply personal and offensive to them. Listen to these people talk is hilarious – “He hired an old colleague as a coach. He failed to throw a challenge flag. He went for it on 4th down. He didn’t call time out at an appropriate moment. HE CUT BOBBY RAINEY! Fire him…..FIRE HIM NOOOWWWW!!!!” These people need to get a grip. We are experiencing one of the best runs of any NFL franchise this century – especially over the 5 year Harbaugh era. There are a lot of teams that haven’s had as much success in their entire 50+ year history.

  4. Danny on said:

    i just want stop by and say i love ever Raven that we have on are team this year GO RAVENS YOU CAN MAKE THE PLAYOFFS AND I FOR SEE A BACK TO BACK SB win

  5. Rick S on said:

    Harbs definitely makes some bone-headed moves. It is a good thing Ozzie brings in a lot of quality players. And it is a good thing that Steve Biscotti handled the Cam Cameron problem last year, or we would not have made it to the Super Bowl. There is nothing wrong with criticizing bone-headed decisions.

  6. JayJay on said:

    EVERY coach makes numerous ‘bone-headed’ decisions every season and even every game. John Fox got killied for his coaching vs the Ravens last playoffs, Belichick has too for his many draft picks that did not pan out as well as sypgate. Coughlin and Tomlin both get ripped by their locals for their decisions so beating up on Harbs (or even Buck in baseball) is unfounded…when you have rapid decisions to make, on the fly most times, more often than not you’re going to get some wrong. It’s part of the job…none of these guys are perfect, they just have to be better than the opposing coach that week.

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